As we head into winter, residents across the South Coast are being warned about the increased risk of fires around the home.
Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and the RFS is urging all Australians to check their home’s smoke alarms are in working order this winter by testing the devices today (June 1), the first day of winter.
The public is being urged to jointly “Sound the Alarm” that day and test the alarm sirens in a widespread determined effort to avoid deaths and injuries during the upcoming colder months.
There were a record 16 deaths due to structure fires in NSW last winter, 12 of them have been deemed ‘preventable’ by FRNSW.
Another 87 people were injured during the 895 winter fires in 2022.
At the launch of the FRNSW’s Winter Fire safety Campaign, firefighters set fire to a mock bedroom at a testing ground at Londonderry, in Sydney’s west, to demonstrate how fire can destroy a typical bedroom within just three minutes.
“Working smoke alarms save lives, and sadly complacency can be deadly,” said FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter.
“If you’re not regularly checking that your smoke alarms are in working order, you’re putting your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk.
“The first day of winter is a great prompt to test your smoke alarms by pressing the button on the devices.
“If you can’t reach it use a broom, but don’t ‘leave it ‘til later,” advises Commissioner Baxter.
“If the alarm activates, your alarm is okay…if it doesn’t, replace the battery or get a new smoke alarm.
“By law, you should have working, hard-wired smoke alarms in your home. “If you’re renting and they’re not installed, speak to your landlord or real estate agency immediately.
“Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
“If they’re yellowed, they are likely out of date and leaving your household at risk.”
“Last winter, we had an unusually high number of people die,” Commissioner Baxter said.
“Simple steps can help save you, your loved ones, or your neighbours needlessly dying from fire in your home.
“Most of those deaths could have been avoided.”
NSW Rural Fire Service Assistant Commissioner Ben Millington said it is important that people in rural and regional areas have a working smoke alarm and everyone knows what to do if there is a fire in your home.
“In rural areas, emergency services often have to travel considerable distances to respond to house fires,” Assistant Commissioner Millington said.
“Smoke alarms and a plan can give you valuable seconds to make it out alive.”
Minister for Emergency Services, Jihad Dib, has expressed concern at the number of smoke alarms within the community that haven’t been tested and are no longer working.
“If you are having trouble testing your alarms, please seek help from friends, neighbours, loved ones or your local firefighters who can also offer advice, because last winter, in almost 50 per cent of structure fires, smoke alarms either weren’t working or not even installed.” Mr Dib said.
“If we work through this together, we can avoid any more tragic deaths because what we want to see is everybody come through this winter safe and sound.
“Having a working smoke alarm, having a safe environment around home heaters and ensuring you have a home safety escape plan showing how the ways out of your home if a fire takes hold, is the best way to stay safe this winter.”
Also present at today’s launch was Manly mother-of-two, Mae Short, who escaped a house fire with her family last Winter, thanks to a working smoke alarm.
“If it wasn’t for that smoke alarm sounding, I’d hate to think where we’d be right now,” Ms Short said.
“You never expect you or your family will be impacted by fire – I certainly didn’t – but these situations really can happen to anyone.
“Please make sure you’re prepared this winter.”
Images: NSW Fire and Rescue